PLAINLY FED UP with the shenanigans of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority — the regional body that oversees Dulles International and Reagan National airports and which is building Metro’s $5.6 billion Silver Line extension to Dulles using revenue from the Dulles Toll Road, which it also controls — Rep. Frank R. Wolf is choosing the nuclear option. Mr. Wolf, a Virginia Republican whose district includes Dulles, has introduced a bill in Congress that amounts to a hostile takeover of the authority’s board of directors by the state of Virginia. Mr. Wolf’s pique is mostly justified; his solution is not.
Under his proposed legislation, Virginia would take control of six seats on a revamped nine-member board, with the District, Maryland and the federal government each having a single seat. That would be a radical departure from the board’s current composition, in which Virginia controls just five seats of a 13-member board.
This is Mr. Wolf’s second attempt to remake the the airports authority’s governance to Virginia’s liking. Just last year, he pushed through a bill, later signed by President Obama, that added four members to the existing board, two of them from the commonwealth. However, owing to foot-dragging by the District — which created the airports authority in an interstate compact with Virginia — Richmond’s two new appointees have not yet been seated.
That has outraged Mr. Wolf and other key Virginia Republican officials. So have a number of actions by the authority’s board and by individual board members. Those actions include wasteful and exorbitant travel and other spending by some board members; hundreds of thousands of dollars in sweetheart contracts for former board members; and politically tone-deaf stances on the configuration of the Silver Line and the labor-friendliness of construction contracts.
Now a new episode has stuck in Mr. Wolf’s craw. The most prominent Virginian on the board — Thomas M. Davis III, a former congressman who is now the board’s vice chairman — left some sensitive papers behind at a board meeting last month. Rather than returning the papers to him, staffers turned them over to the airports authority’s lawyers.
Some of the papers contained information about an attempt by Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to remove a member of the board, Dennis L. Martire, who has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses. The papers were then used as the basis for subpoenas issued by Mr. Martire’s lawyers. Among those subpoenaed: Mr. Davis and his wife, and Mr. Wolf and his chief of staff.
This is a mess. Worse, it is a distraction from the airports authority’s critical role in financing and building the Silver Line to Dulles, one of the nation’s biggest infrastructure projects.
Mr. Wolf has good reason for ire. But blowing up the board in the middle of the Silver Line’s construction is not going to help get it built. And some of the authority’s transgressions that have angered Mr. Wolf are in the past, or in the process of being reformed, such as the board’s permissive travel policies.
The fact is, the authority’s board is moving in the right direction, although not at the speed Mr. Wolf might like. Some patience, rather than a declaration of war, would be the better part of valor.